CHEYENNE – Physical education classes are no longer geared toward merely teaching students games and getting them active during class time.

Instead, the goal is to lay a foundation for a lifetime of healthy habits and an active lifestyle, Hobbs Elementary physical education teacher Kelsey Hemenover said.

That’s why Tuesday afternoon’s unveiling of 25 Strider 14X balance bicycles and helmets at Hobbs was an event worthy of having Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins and three of Hobbs’ kindergarten classes in attendance. One of the classes was even able to stick around after the presentation and try the bikes in Hobbs’ gym.

The bikes, helmets and a complete learn-to-ride curriculum provided by All Kids Bike were made possible by a donation from the BNSF Railway Foundation.

All Kids Bike approached Hemenover about introducing the learn-to-ride element to Hobbs’ kindergarten classes last year, but the school couldn’t come up with the funding to buy the Strider bikes, which retail for $150. Hemenover asked All Kids Bike director of development Matthew Seebaum to keep Hobbs in mind should funding come available.

Matt Jones of the BNSF Railway Foundation talked to Seebaum about partnering with more schools on learn-to-ride programs. Donations to Hobbs and Henderson Elementary bring BNSF’s All Kids Bike donations to double digits. The two Cheyenne schools are BNSF’s first donations to Wyoming schools.

“I always want to help kids find a way to live a healthy, active lifestyle,” Hemenover said. “Biking is such a natural way for them to do that. Cheyenne has so many bike trails in town, and when this opportunity first came up last year, I thought this was the perfect way for them to learn something at a young age that could help them stay active in life.”

All Kids Bike is a four-year-old program started by the South Dakota-based Strider Education Foundation. Schools in Casper, Cody, Gillette and on the Wind River Indian Reservation have already incorporated All Kids Bike programs into their classes.

The addition of Cheyenne was special to Seebaum, who grew up a short distance from Hobbs.

“Growing up here, if I didn’t have a bike, I wouldn’t have had a social life,” he said. “My whole life was riding around with my friends and riding to my friends’ houses. Our mission is really simple and important to us – we want every kid in America to know how to ride a bike by the time they’re 6 years old.

“Right now, we’re in 400 schools nationally. COVID-19 slowed us down, but we’re coming on strong. We’re adding two or three schools per week. It’s really catching on.”

The Strider bikes start out pedal-less, allowing kids to propel them with their feet and build the balance skills and overall comfort necessary for riding a bike free of training wheels. The bikes are also built to accommodate the addition of pedals once the student is ready for them. The curriculum also includes elements on bicycle and roadway safety.

“Our end game is to eventually put pedals on these bikes so – when they leave kindergarten – they’re already comfortable riding a bike, and their parents don’t have the stress of trying to teach them,” Hemenover said. “That can be a stressful event. If we’re teaching them how to ride here, the parents can just go out and enjoy the process.

“We also can keep the kids who already know how to pedal a bike engaged through games that come with the curriculum.”

Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at jjohnke@wyosports.net or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.

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